Issue #17: Freewriting + Inquiry
Happy Valentines’ Day!
16 issues later, we wonder why we’ve not explored anything on writing. If you’ve been following our newsletters, it will be no surprise to you that both of us inquire a lot into the meaning and relationship of what revolves around our lives. Two seekers of truth walking on their own paths to uncover what is true for them.
In this issue, we present to you our practice of freewriting, and, through our personal examples, guide you into how we inquire into our writings to bring the unconscious into consciousness, thereby learning more about ourselves.
Introduction to Writing Inquiry
Article // Sapere Aude // by Daryl
Article // Growth: a birthright // by Rosslyn
To our Chinese Singaporean friends, Happy Lunar New Year! May the year of the ox bring abundance and resilience.
Rosslyn & Daryl
INTRODUCTION // by Rosslyn
What is Writing Inquiry?
Writing Inquiry is a term I use to describe my practice of freewriting and inquiry. It is the integration of two practices that form the bedrock of my current life.
Freewriting is the practice of writing without a prescribed structure, which means no outlines, cards, notes, or editorial oversight. In freewriting, the writer follows the impulses of their own mind, allowing thoughts and inspiration to appear to them without premeditation.
The key to freewriting is, simply, to write our thoughts without any filter. Its benefits are plenty, including reducing anxiety, removing creative blocks, developing self-awareness. There are no rules or correct way to do this. You are free to create your own structure depending on what you hope to get out of it.
For me, personally, it is a commitment I have with myself to meet myself through writing at least 15 minutes each day. I might choose a prompt or I might just begin from what I’m experiencing in the moment. And that’s where the other half comes in: inquiry.
Inquiry is a practice of open and open-ended investigation into the various elements of our experience and its patterns. It is a sincere approach to engaging and exploring our inner world. It is not just mental work but involves sensing and feeling, and engaging our three centers of intelligence (head, heart, body) to make sense of our experience. Consistent practice helps develop our capacity to be with our experiences of life and discover our deepest potential.
So, freewriting + inquiry—it’s writing while staying close to one’s self. If any of these is new to you, try them separately. Experiment and play! With more practice, build on it. Experience your words when you re-read what you’ve written; then experience your thoughts as you write. Get intimate with yourself. Over time, you may discover what a wondrous experience it is to listen in on the conversation happening within yourself, or maybe not. Try it and find out for yourself.
Interested to be part of a regular writing inquiry group or try out a session?
ARTICLE // by Daryl
Free-writing piece based on the prompt “What needs watering.”
What needs watering is my sense of compassion, that gentle ability to hold and behold the Other when they’re at their most vulnerable. I know, I can be hard on adults because I perceive them to be perfectly capable of forethought and reason. After all, how else have they made it this far? Have they been shambling through life all this while, not even pausing for the briefest of moments to peer into their interior world to ask, “What am I doing, really?”
But apparently, it isn’t so. Thrown into the vast expanse that is the World, they’ve Fallen*. Fallen from themselves, their loved ones, and even from the World itself. They fall into distraction, diversion, and, worst of all, division. They choose to be distracted by shiny baubles of fancy to divert attention away from their suffering, but, in so doing, divided themselves from themselves.
Perhaps, I should accord them more compassion, more of what I have for children and the elderly. For what did I experience to harden my heart when it comes to my peers?
Can I be like Socrates, that wondrous man who bore so much compassion in his heart even for his adversaries? If I somehow know better, let me find it in myself to guide without retribution, educate without violence, and, most of all, to lead without abandonment.
*Heidegger uses the term “Fallen” not to indicate a hierarchy of status but to indicate the separation of the self from the Self.
In the last month, I’ve been introduced to the practice of freewriting. In freewriting, I’m supposed to write continuously on a prompt for anything between 9-15 minutes without stopping. That means no crafting, no planning, and certainly no censoring. The purpose is to allow all your current thoughts to come to the surface, and, typically, writers engage in it to clear their minds of detritus before the actual writing begins.
I, however, was introduced to it as a means of inquiring into myself. Freewriting is supposed to help me bypass the voices of the ego and superego—the former enforces my boundaries and rules, the latter, my critic’s voice—so my authentic voice can emerge. Thus, it was to my surprise that compassion showed up in my piece for this week’s prompt—“What needs watering”—when I attempted it. I’ve been told I’m very kind when it comes to children and the elderly, and I can tend to them with a gentle hand. When it comes to adults and my peers, however, it’s a different story: my defences are up, and I close myself off to them. Furthermore, when they’re acting less than rationally—especially at work—I have no qualms letting them sink. After all, work is already so tedious, why make it worse for everyone by reacting when they can simply be rational and solve the issue at hand? By the same token, I treated my mature students the same way: I’m less likely to lend a hand to those who show no indication they’re serious about their work, and they should reap what they sow; I save my time and energy for those who demonstrate a willingness to learn and put in the work.
I save my time and energy.
That’s probably the reason for my seeming lack of compassion. Personally, I fear having my energy sapped and my time wasted by activities I perceive to be meaningless (dealing with hysterical/irrational colleagues and apathetic students immediately comes to mind.) I could have been done with the tedium of life and be enjoying my leisure time, yet here I am, dealing with matters that are unnecessary.
Another notion intimately associated with my need to conserve energy and time. What I deem unnecessary, I’m unwilling to devote myself to. The question is whether what I deem unnecessary is truly so. My inclination towards energy conservation leads me to dismiss others more readily than I had imagined. Perhaps that hysterical colleague just needed an outlet to vent his/her emotions? Or that apathetic student just hasn’t seen any meaning in what is being taught? With the former, I could have recognized that we, as middle to high school teachers, faced a tremendous amount of pressure every day and not everyone has the luxury like me to retreat into their minds to disconnect from the ensuing chaos surrounding me. As for the latter, maybe part of the responsibility lies with me for not making apparent the relevance of what I teach; I should know because God knows what a difficult student I can be when I don’t feel engaged by my teachers.
But what shames me most of all is how this lack of compassion seeped into my relations with my family at various moments in our history. For instance, I had a brief falling out with my family when we were discussing matters for my wedding (we’re all good now.) In hindsight, I emotionally and mentally disconnected when I perceived them as acting in an irrational manner. But had I the compassion then, I would have been better able to hold them in their worries about what my proposed decision signified to them. I could have reassured them it definitely wasn’t my intention to disrespect or abandon them in any way. The way I was in my younger days had probably contributed to that impression.
Am I a compassionate being now? I’m still not there yet but someday I’d like to be. What’s mine to do now is to constantly reflect and attune myself to the concerns of my family first, and, from there, I’ll expand my circle to include the Other by the by.
As I relook my free-writing piece, the following line stands out: If I somehow know better, let me find it in myself to guide without retribution, educate without violence, and, most of all, to lead without abandonment. Being a teacher/educator is a preponderant part of who I am and compassion fortifies those very qualities that would make me a great teacher. If I am to somehow honour this valuable part of me, I could begin by watering this, currently, rather dry well.
ARTICLE // by Rosslyn
Growth: a birthright
Free-writing piece based on the prompt “What needs watering.”
I don’t know. I sense within hoping for an answer and nothing is arising at the moment. Interestingly though, my very act of going inward reveals that what I consider needs watering lies internally. My spiritual practice has gotten me accustomed to seeking answers within. What if I look outward this time? What in the world needs watering? The broken hearts, the foggy minds, the weary souls, the impoverished experiencing drought in their lives, the lands afar in need of quenching. And the plants and trees that need the life-giving rain to be revived from dullness. Whatever wants to grow needs watering, not just the thirsty, dying ones. Ahh…this insight opens my mind. I want to grow my heart in strength and compassion. I want to grow my soul in its capacity to hold. I want to grow my body to have the physical strength and tenacity to support me in my spiritual endeavors. Oh, water me, replenish my vessel.
What can emerge from 12 minutes? Thoughts, words, and ideas, anything and everything on the top of my mind or from deep within my soul. An aspect I absolutely love about timed free-writing pieces is the spontaneity. I never know and can never prepare for what’s going to transpire on paper. Often, it has revealed my automatic default patterns. As a student of the Diamond Approach, the regular practice of inquiry has seeped into various aspects of my life, including writing. I meet myself through my writing and begin an inquiry from thereon.
How am I experiencing myself through this attempt above?
The broken hearts, the foggy minds, the weary souls, the impoverished experiencing drought in their lives, the lands afar in need for a quench. And the plants and trees that need the life-giving rain to be revived from dullness.
I’m not surprised this list came up as the things I considered in need of watering, nevertheless, I want to pause myself here to acknowledge my list. What’s captured would have usually been glanced over by me. Nothing special, same old record playing. That was how I judged it on my first read, that would’ve been how I so often dismissed myself. What if I linger and allow myself to stay and soak in its significance?
Integrity, consistency, that’s what the stale record is playing. Over a year ago, I held the “hearts, minds, and souls” in my heart as I transitioned to the role of a coach, and now, they remain as what matters to me. How precious it is to be steadfast. What’s more, I’m now opening my heart to allow others to enter; the lands I can’t see or touch, and the nature surrounding us. I’m touched that beneath my egoic need for approval, there is still this willing heart to serve. Yes, both are true, it isn’t one against the other.
Whatever wants to grow needs watering, not just the thirsty, dying ones.
I am intrigued by what I think needs watering, and am especially struck by this new and emerging idea I’ve conceived. It invites me to ponder over its potential implications and how my previous thought pattern might have shaped my life.
If I had all the while been running the program that only the “thirsty, dying ones” need watering, how might it translate to how I perceive what or who deserves help? Does my inability to request and receive support have anything to do with this? I’m aware my inclination to not ask for help was partly due to my fear of rejection and disappointment, and now it seems another part of the equation has surfaced.
I recall the years I spent in the corporate world, facing most of the battles alone, not seeking support unless in absolute need. Internally, I refused myself any support because the story I told myself was, “There are many others in need of help, I can still go on, I’m not dying yet.” This was something my Dad had instilled within me: to always fulfill one’s own part before troubling others. I guess I had taken it a notch too far.
The pattern persisted subconsciously till miraculously, the universe delivered a message through my hand and I’m grateful to have received it. I’m glad I was open to this teaching. Just how will I live if I continued with my old mindset? How miserable and isolated I might be. Every action I take may seem futile or heavy without sufficient support.
“What wants to grow needs watering,” I marvel at true nature’s timely wisdom. Re-reading my words, I experience an opening in my head center, a release of tension around my chest, and permission for myself. A revelation: the need for growth is not any less worthy; it is essential, too, for life. We water not merely because we don’t want something to die, but also because we want it to grow.
As my commitment to partake in life gradually deepens, I experience myself moving away from the leaden dread of life and moving towards the blissful gratitude for life. This recognition of the value of growth as a birthright brings a newfound perspective and acceptance towards the notion of support. I now open myself up and set myself free to receive the blessings of the world. Indeed, like what I wrote in my last line—Oh, water me, replenish my vessel—with widespread arms, I call upon the universe to shower me.
Try out the prompt we did, or choose your own, or do without; your choice.
Settle yourself in a comfortable place, and have your pen and paper/journal ready
Set a timer for 12 minutes for yourself
(It’s not strict, feel free to go shorter/longer if you like)
Read what you’ve written aloud (to another or to a mirror)
Be curious; inquire into what you’ve written.
What speaks to you the most? Why?
What surprises you? What do you glance over? Why?
How is your body reacting to what you’ve written?
(Body sensations, emotions; e.g. contraction/expansion, temperature change, etc)
What are you learning about yourself?
What are you learning from yourself?
Most importantly, have fun! Get to know yourself like you would, a new friend.
We sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed our newsletters. We welcome your feedback, and if you have a topic you’ll like us to explore, do drop us a note.
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